due process

Rivera v. Illinois

Issues 

Whether a court's decision in wrongfully denying a peremptory challenge requires an automatic reversal of the related conviction.

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Court below: 

 

This case concerns the effect of an erroneous denial of a criminal defendant's peremptory challenge to a prospective juror who was later seated. Defendant Rivera exercised a peremptory challenge to exclude Ms. Gomez, who worked administratively in a hospital known for treating gunshot victims. The trial judge denied the peremptory challenge, claiming a Batson violation. Ms. Gomez was seated on the jury, which then convicted Rivera of first degree murder in a gang related shooting. The Supreme Court of Illinois held that the judge committed harmless-error in denying this peremptory challenge. Upon appeal before the Supreme Court, Rivera argues that the erroneous denial of a peremptory challenge necessitates automatic reversal "because it undermines the trial structure for preserving the constitutional right to due process and an impartial jury." The State of Illinois, on the other hand, argues that there has been no constitutional violation, and that state law should determine the effect of an erroneous denial of a peremptory challenge on the verdict.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Does the erroneous denial of a criminal defendant's peremptory challenge that resulted in the challenged juror being seated require automatic reversal of a conviction because it undermines the trial structure for preserving the constitutional right to due process and an impartial jury?

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In 1998, sixteen-year old Marcus Lee was fatally shot. See , Illinois at 1. Respondent the State of Illinois ("the State") charged Petitioner Michael Rivera with first degree murder. See The State alleged that Rivera, an alleged gang enforcer, murdered Lee because of an erroneous belief that Lee belonged to a rival gang. See , Michael Rivera at 3.

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Rice v. Collins

Issues 

Does the deference to a trial judge’s findings, embodied in the habeas corpus statute, extend to situations where the fact finder did not directly observe an incident of allegedly inappropriate conduct by a potential juror but merely accepted the prosecutor’s account of events? Can the Federal court consider such actions by the state court trial judge as unreasonable even where the trial judge’s ultimate finding nevertheless falls within the acceptable range of what a rational court could have found given the evidence presented before it?

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The Ninth Circuit recently granted criminal defendant Steven Martell Collins’ habeas corpus petition on the grounds that the prosecution unconstitutionally used a peremptory challenge to strike a potential juror on account of her race. Although the prosecutor convinced the trial judge that the dismissal was not racially motivated and was therefore acceptable, the Ninth Circuit found the trial judge’s decision to be unreasonable despite the fact that the decision was affirmed on numerous occasions throughout the state court system and at the Federal District Court. The Ninth Circuit held that, despite the statutory deference granted to the original fact-finder by 28 U.S.C. § 2254, such deference was inappropriate here. The Supreme Court will likely interpret § 2254 to determine whether the Ninth Circuit exceeded its authority when it held that the trial judge was unreasonable in accepting the prosecutor’s proffered reasons for dismissing the juror.

[Question(s) presented] | [Issue(s)] | [Facts] | [Discussion] | [Analysis]

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Does 28 U.S.C. § 2254 allow a federal habeas corpus court to reject the presumption of correctness for state fact finding, and condemn a state-court adjudication as an unreasonable determination of the facts, where a rational fact finder could have determined the facts as did the state court?

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The below facts are all derived from the amended opinion of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Collins v. Rice, 365 F.3d 667, 673 (9th Cir. 2004). During the process of jury selection for Collins’s trial, the prosecutor used peremptory challenges to remove two African American women from the jury. Id.

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Pottawattamie County, IA v. McGhee

Issues 

Can a prosecutor who knowingly procures false testimony and introduces such testimony at trial be subject to a §1983 civil suit?

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In 2005, Curtis W. McGhee and Terry J. Harrington, both convicted of murder in 1978, sued Pottawattamie County, Iowa, and former county attorneys Joseph Hrvol and David Richter under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging, inter alia, that the Pottawattamie prosecutors coerced false testimony from third party witnesses and then introduced that testimony in their murder trials. The prosecutors argued that they were immune from the lawsuit based on the doctrine of absolute immunity, but both the district court and the Eighth Circuit disagreed. The Supreme Court’s decision will reveal the extent to which prosecutors are immune from liability for their pre-trial misconduct. This clarification may affect the way prosecutors try cases, and will, undoubtedly, influence the degree to which defendants can hold their prosecutors accountable for due process violations.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether a prosecutor may be subjected to a civil trial and potential damages for a wrongful conviction and incarceration where the prosecutor allegedly (1) violated a criminal defendant's "substantive due process" rights by procuring false testimony during the criminal investigation, and then (2) introduced that same testimony against the criminal defendant at trial.

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In 1978, Petitioners Joseph Hrvol and David Richter obtained convictions and life sentences against Respondents Curtis McGhee and Terry Harrington for the murder of retired police captain John Schweer in Council Bluffs, Iowa the previous year. Although police attention initially focused on Charles Gates, a man identified by two witnesses as being near the scene with “a shotgun and a dog,” Hrvol and Richter soon turned their attention to McGhee and Harrington.

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Philip Morris U.S.A. v. Williams

Issues 

1. Whether, when the Supreme Court remands a case and instructs a state court to apply a constitutional standard, the state court can then decide the case using a procedural rule not previously mentioned in litigation.

2. Whether punitive damages 97 times greater than compensatory damages can be awarded based on the reprehensibility of a defendant’s conduct rather than the harm actually suffered by the plaintiff.

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Court below: 

 

In 1997, Mayola Williams’s husband Jesse Williams died from lung cancer as a result of smoking cigarettes manufactured and marketed by Philip Morris USA Inc. Mayola Williams sued Philip Morris alleging negligencestrict product liability, and fraud. At trial, the court rejected Philip Morris’s request for a jury instruction on punitive damages which stated that Philip Morris could not be punished for harms suffered by nonparties. The jury awarded Williams $79.5 million dollars in punitive damages. In Philip Morris USA v. Williams (“Williams II”), the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Oregon Supreme Court upholding this award and instructed the lower court to apply its standard of prohibiting punishment of a defendant for damage to nonparties. On remand, the Oregon Supreme Court upheld its decision, finding that a state procedural law not previously addressed justified the trial judge’s denial of the requested instruction. In this case, the Court will decide whether a lower court can decline to apply a standard that the Court has articulated and instead uphold its ruling on state procedural law grounds. This decision will affect the Supreme Court’s institutional supremacy and state courts’ treatment of punitive damages awards.

·   [Question(s) presented]

·   [Issue(s)]

·   [Facts]

·   [Discussion]

·   [Analysis

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

When this case was last before it, this Court reversed the decision of the Oregon Supreme Court and held that due process precludes a jury from imposing punitive damages to punish for alleged injuries to persons other than the plaintiff. Philip Morris USA v. Williams, 127 S. Ct. 1057, 1065 (2007). This Court then remanded the case to the Oregon Supreme Court with directions to “apply the [constitutional] standard we have set forth.” Ibid. On remand, however, the Oregon Supreme Court refused to follow this Court’s directive. Instead, the Oregon court “adhered to” the judgment that this Court had vacated because it found that Philip Morris had procedurally defaulted under state law and thereby forfeited its claim of federal constitutional error. App., infra, 22a.

The questions presented—the second of which was accepted for review but not reached when this case was last before the Court—are:

1. Whether, after this Court has adjudicated the merits of a party’s federal claim and remanded the case to state court with instructions to “apply” the correct constitutional standard, the state court may interpose—for the first time in the litigation—a state-law procedural bar that is neither firmly established nor regularly followed.

2. Whether a punitive damages award that is 97 times the compensatory damages may be upheld on the ground that the reprehensibility of a defendant’s conduct can “override” the constitutional requirement that punitive damages be reasonably related to the plaintiffs harm.

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In 1950, Jesse Williams began smoking cigarettes and eventually smoked three packs a day of Marlboros, which are manufactured and marketed by Philip Morris USA Inc. (“Philip Morris”). Jesse Williams was diagnosed with lung cancer and died in 1997. Jesse Williamss widow, Mayola Williams (“Williams”), alleges that for approximately forty years Philip Morris knew that smoking cigarettes causes cancer, that millions were addicted to cigarettes, and that Philip Morris had either denied this knowledge or assu

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Perry v. New Hampshire

Issues 

Does admitting eyewitness identification evidence at trial whenever the identification was made under suggestive circumstances violate due process?

 

Barion Perry was convicted of theft for attempting to take amplifiers from a car. A nearby woman, Nubia Blandon, identified Perry as the perpetrator. Perry filed a pretrial motion to suppress Blandon’s identification. Perry argues that eyewitness testimony should not be admitted into evidence at trial when it was obtained under suggestive circumstances. The State of New Hampshire contends that improper state action should be required before eyewitness testimony is barred and that due process does not require preliminary judgments on the reliability of evidence before it is admitted at trial. The Supreme Court of New Hampshire upheld the trial court's denial of the motion because there was no evidence of improper state action. The Supreme Court’s decision could affect the conditions under which parties can use eyewitness testimony at trial.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Do the due process protections against unreliable identification evidence apply to all identifications made under suggestive circumstances, as held by the First Circuit Court of Appeals and other federal courts of appeals, or do they apply only when the suggestive circumstances were orchestrated by the police, as held by the New Hampshire Supreme Court and other courts?

At approximately 3:00 a.m.

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Acknowledgments 

The authors would like to thank former Supreme Court Reporter of Decisions Frank Wagner for his assistance in editing this preview.

Additional Resources 

• New York Times, Adam Liptak: 34 Years Later , Supreme Court will Revisit Eyewitness IDs (Aug. 22, 2011)

• St. Louis Today, Maggie Clark: New Doubt Is Cast on Eyewitness Testimony (Sept. 25, 2011)

 
 

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Chavez-Meza v. United States

Issues 

Is a district court deciding not to grant a post-sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) in proportion to the amended Federal Sentencing Guidelines required to provide an explanation, or is no explanation necessary so long as the court uses a preprinted form order that provides a policy statement and certifies the applicable sentencing factors?

 

The Supreme Court will decide whether a court, in deciding not to grant a discretionary post-judgment sentencing revision under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) in proportion to the amended Federal Sentencing Guidelines, must provide an explanation or can issue its decision through a preprinted form order containing standardized language. The Fourth, Fifth, and Tenth Circuits have held that § 3582(c)(2) does not require a judge to provide an explanation when refusing to grant a motion for a proportional sentencing reduction in accordance with the amended Guidelines. The Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits, however, have found that judges are required to explain sentencing revision decisions. Petitioner Chavez-Meza argues that a judge must provide some explanation for a disproportional sentencing reduction when the reasons for the decision are not apparent from the record. Respondent United States argues that judges can use preprinted forms when granting sentencing revisions that are disproportional to the Guideline revisions, as long as the form order contains standardized language stating that the court has considered the policy and applicable factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). This case will clarify the extent to which application of the amended Guidelines reflects a bipartisan shift away from punitive sentences for drug offenses.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether, when a district court decides not to grant a proportional sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), it must provide some explanation for its decision when the reasons are not otherwise apparent from the record, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits have held, or whether it can issue its decision without any explanation so long as it is issued on a preprinted form order containing the boilerplate language providing that the court has “tak[en] into account the policy statement set forth in U.S.S.G. § lBl.10 and the sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), to the extent that they are applicable," as the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Fifth and Tenth Circuits have held.

Following an investigation and sting operation in 2012, federal authorities arrested Petitioner Adaucto Chavez-Meza on charges of conspiring with the Sinaloa Cartel to distribute methamphetamine in the United States.

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Additional Resources 

Jody Godoy, Judges to Weigh Resentencing Under New Guidelines, Law360 (January 16, 2018)

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Jennings v. Rodriguez (updated)

Issues 

Did the Ninth Circuit err in deciding that non-citizens who are subject to mandatory detention while seeking admission to the United States must be granted bond hearings at six month intervals throughout their detention and are entitled to release unless the government meets its burden by demonstrating that the alien is a flight risk or a danger to the community? 

[UPDATE] The Supreme Court heard oral argument for this case and requested additional briefing. The Court received the requested briefing and re-set the case for additional argument during the 2017-2018 term.

In this case, the Supreme Court will determine whether immigrants to the United States, who are being detained under civil immigration detention statutes, must be brought before an immigration judge for a bond hearing at six month intervals throughout their detention and whether the immigration judge must consider alternatives to a detained immigrant’s prolonged detention if the government fails to show through clear and convincing evidence that the immigrant is a flight risk or danger to the community. David Jennings et al. argue that statutory language and congressional intent prohibit immigration judges from releasing non-citizens detained under the civil immigration detention statutes on bond. Meanwhile, Alejandro Rodriguez et al. argue that Congress did not authorize prolonged detention through the immigration statutes and that without periodic bond hearings or the government’s justification of continued detention, individuals would be needlessly deprived of their liberty. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will impact detained non-citizen’s constitutional rights and their ability to exercise their legal rights during removal proceedings.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Under 8 U.S.C. 1225(b), inadmissible aliens who arrive at our Nation’s borders must be detained, without a bond hearing, during proceedings to remove them from the country. Under 8 U.S.C. 1226(c), certain criminal and terrorist aliens must be detained, without a bond hearing, during removal proceedings. Under 8 U.S.C. 1226(a), other aliens may be released on bond during their removal proceedings, if the alien demonstrates that he is not a flight risk or a danger to the community. 8 C.F.R. 236.1(c)(8). Aliens detained under Section 1226(a) may receive additional bond hearings if circumstances have changed materially. 8 C.F.R. 1003.19(e).

  1. Whether aliens seeking admission to the United States who are subject to mandatory detention under Section 1225(b) must be afforded bond hearings, with the possibility of release into the United States, if detention lasts six months
  2. Whether criminal or terrorist aliens who are subject to mandatory detention under Section 1226(c) must be afforded bond hearings, with the possibility of release, if detention lasts six months.
  3. Whether, in bond hearings for aliens detained for six months under Sections 1225(b), 1226(c), or 1226(a), the alien is entitled to release unless the government demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that the alien is a flight risk or a danger to the community; whether the length of the alien’s detention must be weighed in favor of release; and whether new bond hearings must be afforded automatically every six months.

Alejandro Rodriguez, Abdirizak Aden Farah, Jose Farias Cornejo, Yussuf Abdikadir, Abel Perez Ruelas, and Efren Orozco are all non-citizens who sued in a class action challenging their prolonged detentions without individualized bond hearings or re-evaluations of the reasons for their continued detention under civil immigration detention statutes. See Rodriguez v. Robbins, No.

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Acknowledgments 

Original Preview by Reymond Yamine and Natalie San Juan.

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Class v. United States

Issues 

Does a guilty plea inherently waive a defendant’s right to challenge the constitutionality of the statute underlying his conviction unless that right is explicitly preserved in the plea agreement?

This case will allow the Supreme Court to clarify the appellate rights of criminal defendants who have pled guilty and subsequently want to challenge the constitutionality of their statute of conviction. Circuit courts have been divided on the subject. Petitioner, Class, argues that the Court should apply the precedent set in Blackledge v. Perry and Menna v. New York to his case by holding that constitutional challenge claims do not challenge a defendant’s factual guilt or dispute whether the government met every burden of proving each element of the crime, and therefore are not precluded by pleading guilty. Respondent, the United States, argues that a constitutional challenge to a defendant’s statute of conviction is inherently waived in a guilty plea as an aspect of his factual guilt unless it is expressly preserved in his plea agreement. With this decision, the Supreme Court will determine the constitutional rights of all criminal defendants who plead guilty and likely impact the role guilty pleas play in United States jurisprudence.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether a guilty plea inherently waives defendant’s right to challenge the constitutionality of his statute of conviction.

On May 30, 2013, Petitioner Rodney Class (“Class”) parked his Jeep, which contained guns and ammunition, in a parking lot located on the Capitol grounds on the 200 block of Maryland Avenue, SW in Washington D.C. See Brief for Petitioner, Rodney Class at 4–5. While Class visited the Capitol buildings, a police officer noticed a Jeep without the permit required to park in the lot and saw a blade and gun holster inside.

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Civil Forfeiture

Overview

Civil forfeiture occurs when the government seizes property under suspicion of its involvement in illegal activity. Such a proceeding is conducted in rem, or against the property itself, rather than in personam, or against the owner of the property; by contrast, criminal forfeiture is an in personam proceeding. For this reason, civil forfeiture case names often appear strange, such as United States v. Eight Rhodesian Stone Statues,

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco County

Issues 

Does a court have the power to adjudicate a case when the case is not causally connected to a defendant’s in-state conduct?

In this case, the Supreme Court will determine whether courts have specific jurisdiction over defendants only when the case arises out of conduct that is causally connected to a defendant’s in-state conduct. The case comes before the Supreme Court after Bristol-Myers Squibb was sued in California for manufacturing a defective anticoagulant, despite having manufactured the anticoagulant in New Jersey and having only a transient connection with California. Bristol-Myers Squibb argues that the California court lacks power to adjudicate this case, because the company’s conduct in California is not causally connected to the plaintiffs’ injuries. California Superior Court, on the other hand, argues that specific jurisdiction does not require proof of causation. Much is at stake in this action: some assert that California’s victory would result in gross injustice to defendants; others claim that BMS’s victory would cause judicial resources to be squandered with duplicative litigation.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether a plaintiff ’s claims arise out of or re-late to a defendant’s forum activities when there is no causal link between the defendant’s forum contacts and the plaintiff ’s claims—that is, where the plaintiff ’s claims would be exactly the same even if the defendant had no forum contacts?

Defendant Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (“BMS”) manufactures anticoagulants—drugs meant to inhibit blood clotting. See Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Super. Ct. of San Francisco Cty., S221038, at 2 (Cal. Aug. 29, 2016).

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